• Dr Mhairi Crawford
  • Annabel West
Development Director, WISE Campaign

Why are so many young women still reluctant to consider an engineering apprenticeship as a career option?

Women made up only 5.5 per cent of those who completed a STEM apprenticeship last year. Only 290 women completed an engineering apprenticeship, compared to 9, 390 men. We need to address the loss of over 65 per cent of girls between GCSE and the next step in STEM training. There are still negative perceptions of engineering as a potential career where young women can be happy and successful. Parents, schools and the government all have a role to play in promoting engineering careers to girl and demonstrating apprenticeships are a great alternative pathway to higher education.

How can employers communicate the diverse range of engineering roles available and break the stereotypes that are holding the industry back?

Engineering impacts on our everyday lives and is an exciting sector to work in, by engaging with girls at school using resources such as WISE's People Like Me, employers can demonstrate the wealth of different opportunities available and inspire young women to pursue careers that have a real impact on society. Companies should champion female role models from within their organisation to demonstrate people from all background are happy and thriving in this sector.

Is it time to consider women-only apprenticeship programmes?

I can understand why some people are contemplating these because they know women can feel outnumbered and not always comfortable in a male-dominated workplace. Personally I do not think they are a good idea because challenging stereotypes and achieving gender parities requires both men and women to work together to meet this aim, and the evidence points to the business benefits of a gender balanced environment. I think a co-ordinated strategy to improve work place inclusivity and encourage more women to apply to engineering apprenticeships is a better approach.

Senior Engineering Manager, Gatwick Airport Limited

Why are so many young women still reluctant to consider an engineering apprenticeship as a career option?

There is a lack of understanding about what engineering is, and most girls don’t understand that an apprenticeship can lead to qualifications as valid as A Levels or even a degree. Girls doing apprenticeships are massively outnumbered by boys, which puts them off, and girls seem to rule out physics at a young age – possibly because they don't think they can do it.

How can employers communicate the diverse range of engineering roles available and break the stereotypes that are holding the industry back?

They need to get role-models into schools, starting when girls are seven or eight. We use STEM ambassadors, who explain what engineering is and how you can become an engineer, and we also send apprentices into schools. The girls become interested when they realise they are earning as well as learning – and that a chartered engineer earns an average of £63,000 a year.

Is it time to consider women-only apprenticeship programmes?

I am not so much for women-only apprenticeships, as taking a quota. For example, when choosing work experience people from a school, people should select four – two boys and two girls. It’s hard for a 16-year old girl to stand up in isolation and say she wants to become an engineer - we need to develop a critical mass of female engineers to make a sustainable difference.